it correct that you coined the word “polyamory?”
If so, in what year did you come up with the term, and how?
(Is there a small tale behind the coining of the word? For example,
what, if any, were some of the terms you initially considered,
and why did you subsequently abandon them?)
was our senior wife, Morning Glory, who officially coined the
terms “polyamory” and “polyamorous.” This
was in an article she wrote for our Church magazine, Green
Egg, which was published in the May, 1990 issue. The article
was titled “A Bouquet of Lovers,” and it was written
in response to a request from our third partner/wife of the time,
Diane. Morning Glory was always referring to “The Rules”
of such relationships, and Diane, who was at the time Editor of
the magazine, asked her to set them down in writing so everyone
would know what they were.
During the process
of composing the article, Morning Glory needed a simple term to
express the idea of having multiple simultaneous sexual/loving
relationships without necessarily marrying everyone. This sounds
so obvious, but strangely, there had never been any such word.
Since “monogamy” means, literally, “marriage
to one,” the obvious corollary would seem to be “polygamy,”
meaning “marriage to many.” But people can be very
sloppy in their use of the language, and they often use the word
“monogamy” even to refer to steady dating, which might
be more properly described as “monamory” (“love
of one” –Oberon’s term).
Other people had
tried to tackle this semantic problem before. In the ‘70s,
Geo of Kerista coined the useful term “polyfidelity”
(“faithful to many”). Polyfidelity actually meant
(most of the time) a sexually fidelitous group marriage of co-equals—all
equally bonded to each other member. The specific social contract
that defined any particular “polyfi” group marriage
could vary on all other variables, but not these points. (In Kerista,
this also meant equitable rotational sleeping schedules, and no
same-sex lovemaking--all set down in a book of 86 elaborate rules.)
These days many people who find loyalty to their group marriage
a key shared value still use the term polyfidelity, but with this
In the mid-‘80s,
Darca Nicholsen coined the term “omnigamy,” which
means, literally, “marriage to everything.” (We’ve
never been sure just what she meant by that, and we haven’t
seen this word in use since MG came up with “polyamory.”)
magazine (first a newsletter, then the magazine) began in 1984
and used the term polyfidelity for those doing that specifically,
and “open relationships” or “intimate networks”
for those doing other variations of multiple-adult committed relationships.
In The Polyfidelity Primer, published in 1989, these terms
were defined (and reprinted in Anapol’s Love Without
Limits). Loving More started using polyamory as an umbrella
term for the wide range of styles of group relating as it became
more well-known, mostly via the online poly community.
Around 1990, Deborah
Anapol was using the phrases “non-monogamy” and “intimate
networks” to describe the idea of having several simultaneous
ongoing lover relationships, without requiring exclusivity or
commitment. Deborah was one of the first authors to pick up on
“polyamory,” and she reprinted Morning Glory’s
1990 article, “A Bouquet of Lovers,” in the first
edition of Deborah’s book, Love Without Limits (1992).
Around the same
time, Michael Aluna coined the word “panfidelity,”
meaning “faithful to all,” which he proceeded to define
most eloquently in a series of articles (which we published in
Green Egg in 1993-94), in terms very reminiscent of how
we have been discussing polyamory.
What we were all
trying to come up with was an inclusive term that encompassed
ALL forms of multiple love/sex relationships—and, perhaps
most importantly, of being the kind of person capable of romantically
loving several people simultaneously. We were NOT trying to define
another exclusive lifestyle or specific pattern for such relationships,
other than to emphasize openness and honesty in their practice.
We needed a word that simply meant “having multiple lovers.”
Morning Glory and
Oberon had both studied Latin in high school, and know a smattering
of Greek as well. When we need to coin words, we naturally look
to Greek and Latin roots. However, the Latin for “loving
many” would be “multi-amory,” which sounded
awkward; and the Greek would be “polyphilia,” which
sounded like a disease.
In discussing this
whole semantic dilemma, Morning Glory had the brilliant insight
to combine both Greek and Latin roots into “poly-amory.”
This sounded just perfect. So she used it in the article. And
the rest, as they say, is History...
2-Q:What, in your view,
is the essence of polyamory? How does it differ from swinging?
2-A:Here is Morning
Glory’s current definition, which she gave to the Editor
of the Oxford English Dictionary when they contacted her
in 1999 to enter the term:
The practice, state or ability of having more than one sexual
loving relationship at the same time, with the full knowledge
and consent of all partners involved.”
term was meant to be inclusive, and in that context, we have never
intended to particularly exclude “swinging” per se,
if practitioners thereof wished to adopt the term and include
themselves. As far as we have understood, swinging specifically
does not involve “cheating,” and it certainly
does involve having “multiple lovers”! Moreover, we
understand from speaking with a few swinging activists that many
swingers are closely bonded with their various lovers, as best
friends and regular partners.
two essential ingredients of the concept of “polyamory”
are “more than one;” and “loving.” That
is, it is expected that the people in such relationships have
a loving emotional bond, are involved in each other's lives multi-dimensionally,
and care for each other. This term is not intended to apply to
merely casual recreational sex, anonymous orgies, one-night stands,
pick-ups, prostitution, “cheating,” serial monogamy,
or the popular definition of swinging as “mate-swapping”
is about truthful communication with all concerned parties, loving
intent, erotic meeting and inclusivity (as opposed to the exclusivity
of monogamy and monamory). On the basis of our own personal friendships
with a few participants in the very large, diverse groundswell
of human energy sometimes called the “Swinger’s Movement,”
many—perhaps most—self-identified “swingers”
do seem to fulfill our criteria of being polyamorous.
Ryam Nearing of Loving More says: “In all my talks
with swingers it seems that the traditional (and most widespread)
way of swinging is not polyamory as it is primarily sexual and
specifically not relationship oriented. Some swingers and some
locals allow for/choose more emotional connection, but they are
the exception rather than the rule.”
3-Q:How does “morality” fit into the poly scheme
term “morality” is generally used to refer to externally-imposed
rules intended to govern private behavior. This is a linear concept
that relates to absolutes of “right” and “wrong.”
We prefer the term “values.” The values of Polyamory
are love, communication, truth, inclusively, and a positive embracing
of the sexual aspect of human nature.
polyamorous folk tend to feel that their consensual relationships
and behavior are really no-one else’s business but their
own. Many of us identify strongly with the Wiccan “Charge
of the Goddess” (written by Doreen Valiente), which says:
“All Acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.” Thus,
we sanction all loving and responsible relationships among informed
and mutually consenting adults, whatever their number, gender,
“ethics,” which is more about one’s internal
personal codes of behavior, there is a very strong foundational
current in the basic concept of polyamory, and throughout the
poly community, emphasizing honesty, openness, compassion, loyalty,
commitment, kindness, decency, and in general, caring and taking
care of each other. This is all summed up quite nicely in the
phrase, “Be excellent to each other!” (from the movie,
“Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”)
4-Q:What is the greater social context in which the Ravenhearts
founding members of the Family have been significant founders,
movers and shakers for decades in the emerging Neo-Pagan religious
community, which is one of the fastest-growing religions in the
Western World. Oberon and Morning Glory especially have helped
define the very nature and values of this community. As a polytheistic
religious movement, the Neo-Pagan community is dedicated to the
celebration of diversity in all its myriad manifestations. Thus
all forms of relationships and sexual orientations are honored
in the community, though not necessarily personally embraced by
and mythologically, polyamory and polygamy have always been considered
viable options among Pagan peoples, for those who so choose them,
and such relationships are honored and supported today within
the worldwide Neo-Pagan community, where approximately 50% of
contemporary Pagans polled have stated polyamory to be their ideal
relationship choice. And beyond the Pagan community, Liza is an
organizational founder and highly-respected networker in the national
grassroots, volunteer ecumenical sexuality and spirituality movement.
We feel that having a larger social context which accepts and
supports one’s personal life- and relationship patterns
is essential to living a healthy and integrated life.
5-Q:What is your vision for the role of polyamory in the world?
believe that the first syllable of the word polyamory, “poly,”
is a post-modern paradigm of great value; and that “Polyamory”
is one expression of it. We live in a POLYmorphous POLYverse,
in which even many scientists seem to understand that our world
emerges out of chaos and the order we perceive feeds and thrives
on the chaos that is beyond our understanding. Where one linear
idea once lived in human culture, a diversity of notions have
believe that Polyamory is a very important new relationship option
whose time seems to have arrived. Where once we thought every
family should consist of a monogamous man and woman with their
2.5 kids, we now know that a family is any small group of bonded
people who claim that connection with one another. Most families
no longer fit the conventional description. The much-lamented
“breakdown of the American family,” and the need to
reclaim “traditional family values,” are manifestations
of the 20th Century’s transition from village
life and extended families to the modern “nuclear family”
units, which often reduce down to a single mother trying to raise
and support children she hardly even interacts with.
century ago, the typical American family consisted of three generations
(parents, children and grandparents) living together in a large
house, along with lateral relatives such as Uncles and Aunts,
and even at least one unrelated live-in “servant,”
such as a nanny, butler, cook or housekeeper. The “Traditional
American Family,” in fact, looked pretty much like “The
each generation of the last century, we have become increasingly
isolated and alienated. Ever-increasing numbers of American children
are growing up with no brothers or sisters, hardly any parental
interactions, and no adult role models for parenting or other
relationships. Their interactions with other children occur in
hostile environments, such as schools and the street, where they
are subject to ever-rising levels of teasing, harassment, bullying
and violence. They retreat to the world of television, video games,
and the Internet—none of which provide real-life interaction
with actual flesh-and-blood human beings.
deep within each of us is our genetic ancestral memory of the
Tribe, the Clan, the extended Family. Such rich relationships
nurtured and sustained our ancestors from the dawn of time, and
it was within that context that we became fully human. We require
and crave such connections and relationships in our deepest heart-of-hearts,
and we seek them in clubs, gangs, fraternities, cliques, parties,
pubs, communes, churches, nests, covens, and circles of close
And for an increasing number of us, we are learning how to create
such complex and deep bonding relationships through extended networks
of multiple lovers and expanded families. “Polyamory,”
implying multiple lovers, is both a new paradigm for relationships
and a vision for healing the pathological alienation of individuals
in modern society.
now know that the biodiversity we value in nature, as the biologist
Bruce Bagemihl points out, is valuable in sexual and bonding behavior
also. And although Dr. Bagamihl is talking about animals, we are
also animals and this applies equally to us. Polyamory is not
“the answer.” Diversity and choice are the answers--and
Polyamory is one of the strands in the decentralized network of
diversity and choice with regard to human bonding, intimacy, and
6-Q:Do you find that American
society in general these days is more accepting of alternative
lifestyles such as polyamory, as compared to a generation or two
think the answer would have to be “yes,” in general.
The increasing acceptance of various types of diversity has been
a major thrust of US culture over the past few decades. This has
been especially due, we think, to the efforts of such as the gay
community, the Pagan community, the Black community, the rise
of feminism, the “New Age” movement, the influence
of Hollywood and TV (such as “Star Trek”), science
fiction & fantasy literature, comic books, Harry Potter, etc.
The entire “Cultural Creatives” phenomenon is a growing
demographic that comprises something like 25% of all Americans,
and includes many of the brightest and best-educated.
international breakdown of the family and other community ties
requires that we examine alternatives; and no human being is exempt
from this project or its implications. For the last five years
the Ravenheart family has been consistently newsworthy in the
national media. People want to know about what we are doing, and
how we are doing it. The more people know, the more they want
to know. In our lectures and workshops on Polyamory, it is clear
from the change in our audiences that more people are practicing
Polyamory. Four years ago our audiences were mainly people who
were considering trying it. Now they are mostly people who are
immersed in this lifestyle and have practical questions.
course, there is also the inevitable backlash. Pat Robertson and
other Fundamentalist Right-Wing Christians have declared that
there is a “Cultural War” going on in the country
for “the souls of Americans.” Clearly, they see folks
like us as on the opposite side from them. But so far, we have
not experienced directly much impact from this “war”...
We really aren’t actually trying to make people “see
the light” of polyamory. We’re just trying to make
ourselves more visible and hence more available to those out there
who would naturally identify with all this, and would be greatly
relieved to know they are not alone. But in no way are we trying
to “recruit” or “convert” anyone. We’re
perfectly happy to leave everyone alone to follow their own bliss,
just as we wish to be left alone to follow ours. We all have different
needs and desires, and polyamory is certainly not for everyone!
7-Q:How many folks actually build healthy intimate families
versus how many are creating just as limited and damaged relationships
as they did in serial monogamy?
is important to balance the positive vision that some have created
in the polyamorous lifestyle with the difficulty and negative
reasons and ways some folks who say they’re polywhatever
Ravenheart Family are considered by many to be some of the idealistic,
visionary leaders of the poly movement. Most people, however,
are not. It is important to note that some people see this bigger
picture of polyamory in the world; while others are just trying
to fix broken relating in a very personal (and perhaps neurotic)
way via their participation in expanded relationships. Some examples
of neurotic approaches to polyamory include: acting out sex addiction;
trying to fix a broken marriage while really just adding more
stresses; boredom or dissatisfaction with their mate; basking
in “new relationship energy” (NRE) as a dyad instead
of using it to strengthen all the relationships; etc.
For each of us Ravenhearts, on the other hand, polyamory is an
essential part of our individual identities and choices as well
as our group vision--as opposed to something just one of us wants
and the others put up with.
is no bed of roses or quick fix to those disillusioned by monogamy’s
problems. Many people who are drawn to it in principle for whatever
reason may not be able to manage it in practice due to lack of
dedication to meeting its demands—either because they find
it too difficult and demanding, or because they’d rather
do other things with their time and energy. Folks who can't handle
the communication and relationship maintenance demanded in monogamy
can hardly be expected to manage the even greater degree that
is required by complex relating in groups.
8-Q:What does polyamory mean to you? What kind of freedoms
has it brought into your life? What kind of problems?
we have been emphasizing about polyamory which may distinguish
this concept from so many others, is complete openness and honesty.
It is specifically NOT about “cheating.” In fact,
the whole point of Morning Glory’s original article, our
workshops, and even the entire poly community, is to establish
a cultural matrix and context in which such open and honest relationships
may be sanctioned and thrive, for those who feel so inclined.
As for “what kind of freedoms” polyamory has brought
into our lives, we would have to say, the freedom to be fully
ourselves, according to our own intrinsic nature. And by our giving
a name to it, other people who share that nature have also been
finding that they are not alone. As we find each other, and develop
a growing community of like-minded souls, we are able more and
more to “come out of the closet” and live in full
and open integrity.
freedom of having more than one devoted bonded relationship is
a joy that is almost impossible to describe to someone who has
not experienced it. There is an inspiration to it and a security.
To us it is a human triumph of communication skills, moxie, romantic
inspiration, and flexibility. Another freedom is knowing that
if one intimate is not available or able to meet our needs, someone
else is. Conversely we are aware that someone else can meet our
lover’s need if we are unable or unwilling. Theoretically
many needs can be met by people we don’t have sex with,
but in fact erotic bonding gives us deeper access to the nourishment
another human being can provide.
have long drawn an analogy between being polyamorous and being
gay: just as many people are just naturally homosexual, so, we
believe, are many people just naturally polyamorous. But in a
culture in which being straight, or monamorous, is almost universally
considered to be the only possible option (legally as well as
culturally), people who don’t fit that pattern must conduct
their affairs in shameful secret. Thus, if one is going to act
on such inclinations, “cheating” is implicit.
we are trying to do is just what the gay community has been doing
over the past few decades: that is, present the reality and validity
of alternatives to what has been so long regarded as “the
norm.” And thus those who are truly poly in nature (just
as those who are truly gay in nature) may understand themselves
not as some kind of shameful sickos, but as merely another variation
in the delightful diversity of humanity. As in the fable of “The
Ugly Duckling,” we just have to find the others who are
problems basically revolve around over-stimulation and cascading
episodes of stress. Sometimes it might be a flu or cold bug, sometimes
an overdose of emotional intensity, sometimes one person has a
crisis and in the middle of it another one has a crisis-- What
do you do then? The good news is you have many more resources
to deal with these situations and if you need a break or even
a change in lifestyle, the system is flexible enough to bend quite
a bit without breaking. We don’t have to break up with someone
in order to change our relationship; we can stay in the intimate
connection and change its form. We add new relationships to meet
emerging need. So Polyamory is very evolutionary in that it allows
a person to express and establish new bonds, interests, and ways
of being while keeping the continuity of long-term deeply-valued
do the Ravenhearts deal with problems?
9-A:By sitting down and talking them through (several members
of the Family are highly-trained and skilled mediators); by regular
Family meetings and planning/scheduling sessions; and by intense
late-night conversations in bed or hot tub. If we can’t
handle a problem within our own Family, we don’t hesitate
to call in outside mediators, or even, if we feel they can be
helpful, see sympathetic professional therapists or marriage counselors.
have always accepted Robert Heinlein’s definition of “love”
(from Stranger in a Strange Land) as “That condition wherein
another person’s happiness is essential to your own.”
We genuinely care first and foremost about the happiness of our
partners, however many there may be. Liza came up with the concept
of a “Conspiracy of Heart’s Desire.” Thus our
entire Family is continually engaged in a conspiracy to create
the fulfillment of Heart’s Desire for each other. And we
truly believe that “With love, all things are possible.”
10-Q:How do you keep from hurting the feelings of your poly partners?
guides to treating a polyamorous partner well are the basic principles
of civility that apply to any human interaction. One may have
to adhere to them more strictly and consciously in Polyamory and
mistakes may have more dramatic outcomes. The game of human civility
has higher stakes when more people are involved.
commitment to openness and honesty in our relationships (absolutely
essential in polyamory!) means that if our feelings are being
hurt, we tell each other. And if we know that our lovers’
feelings are hurting, we drop everything to take care of them,
and do whatever is necessary. Often, feelings are hurt (and jealousy
activated) when we feel we are not getting the attention we need.
If that happens, then we make a special effort to give each other
that attention. We take each other out to dinner and movies, have
special romantic dates and evenings, bring each other flowers
and little gifts, and in general try and shower each other with
love and affection. This is made easier by having more people
involved. As we say, sometimes it’s necessary “to
call in reinforcements!”
11-Q:Do you draw certain boundaries—stick to a list
of do’s and don’ts?
to our boundaries, we have a notion of prioritizing our primary
relationships if a conflict should arise. Primary partners have
an ultimate veto over secondary relationships that they may feel
are destructive or inappropriate to their relationship. We make
a real effort to bring home prospective new partners and introduce
them to the whole Family—usually inviting them to a special
dinner and evening. We discuss prospective new relationships with
our partners and get feedback and approval. We have our boundaries
around safe sex issues, and have worked out parameters we are
all comfortable with. We help mediate with each other when that’s
needed. We commiserate with each other over relationships that
aren’t working out. Basically, first and foremost, we’re
a tight-knit, loving Family, the members of which also have other
“outside” lovers as well.
are your most precious joys?
our life and work together; wonderful committed friendships and
partnerships; deep and abiding love; great sex; dinners, salons,
parties, hot tubs; travels, adventures, explorations; walks in
the woods and picnics on the beach; going as a group to concerts
and new movies; attending Pagan festivals together and doing our
Family panels; our creative work in Right Livelihood; introducing
old and new friends and lovers to each other…
13-Q:What wisdom would you like to share?
off, don't make rules; make agreements. Make your agreements based
on what everyone actually WANTS to do, rather than what some people
want others to do over their dead bodies. And if, over time, you
find that the agreements you've made aren't working out, and people
are finding them onerous or inappropriate, sit down together and
don’t try this at home unless you are prepared for total
honesty and commitment! And unconditional love.
14-Q:Where can I learn more about Polyamory?
The single best resource is Loving More magazine and its
associated website: www.LoveMore.com.
Here’s a few other
Internet resources: email@example.com;
You can also type in the keyword “polyamory”
into your search engine and find many more sites and references.
The news:alt.polyamory newsgroup; www.polyamory.org;
Sacred Space Institute, www.lovewithoutlimits.com;
Glendower: A Panfidelity Newsletter, firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are also a
number of good books addressing this topic, both fiction and non-fiction.
The great classic fiction is Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger
in a Strange Land (1961)—as well as most of his subsequent
books, culminating in To Sail Beyond the Sunset (1988). We Ravenhearts
also highly recommend Donald Kingsbury’s Courtship Rite (1982).
See also Robert Rimmer.
The Ravenhearts – PO Box 688, Penngrove, CA 94951
This article reproduced here with permission from the authors.
It's presence here does not imply that the authors are in
any way associated with OMS
(and they aren't - but they are respected and honored members
of the international Pagan community,
and Oberon Zell Ravenheart is an Honorary
here from Wikipedia?
purports to be the online encyclopedia where anyone/everyone
can contribute. This sounds great, but, as is true with
many things that sound great it's an outright lie.
is dominated by committees of little content "Nazis"
that control what shows up and what doesn't show up.
Thus, Wikipedia is the LAST place you should go for
any kind of authoritative information about anything.
few months ago when our archivist attempted to add some
paragraphs outining the history and roll of the Order
of the Mithtil Star and the Reformed
Druids of Gaia to the Wikipedia
article about Druids, he was basically told that
OMS and RDG aren't important enough -- we hadn't appeared
in enough books to warrant an inclussion in the divine
Wikipedia! Funny, Isaac Bonewits felt we were important
enough to mention us several times in his new
book. And we own an entire "Green Book"
of our own, plus numerous paragraphs in the ARDA
- the real authority on Reformed Druidism.
just "say no" to Wikipedia. We don't need
censorship and outright liars to dominate the Internet.